How I Choose My Next Pen

I had my dream job for a couple of years back in the early 80’s. The office supplies buyer for a big company. That role has gone the way of big discounts with major chains but back in the day there was a fair amount of negotiations, product comparisons and competition going on and I loved it. Where I got a little sideways was probably my overzealous testing of writing instruments that we paid $.72 a dozen for, I will never forget the winning product that won based solely on price, those pens were awful and they are still sold today (Could they really be that awful then?). If we were going to buy cheap pens I wanted them to at least write good. They didn’t, and it just wasn’t a priority to the organization as a whole. I reluctantly bought into the rationale that most of the pens would have been lost, walked home or broke before they ran out of ink. In the end they proved adequate and we bought container loads of them. Another part of my job was questioning the justification of requests for higher quality pens on smaller purchase scales, we just called them “specials”. Yes I was THAT GUY that told the office admin that the company was not going to spend the money for G2’s, Uni-balls or GASP Cross pens, even for retirement gifts. I was a good corporate soldier and bought the pens I wanted to write with using my own money and even tucked my tail when a corporate exec would come over the top of the organization and demand a better writing experience at the company’s expense. Memorable times.

During that period, and still to this day, my subjective testing criteria for a pen has been fundamentally the same. I want them to lay down a solid line of ink with minimal pressure on the tip and be comfortable to hold. Nice aesthetics, as a purchase criteria, didn’t land on my checklist until many years later.

Today the writing part is pretty easy to attain as the technology has improved a lot with even cheap disposable pens from the major brands and many of the private label offerings, I still love the Staples Sonix product. Where my tastes have expanded over the years is in the aesthetics area and the source of the pen.

When I can try a pen here are my bulletized criteria. The showstoppers for me are:

  • Does the ink flow skip?
  • Does the pen require a lot pressure to get a saturated line of ink on the page?
  • Does it leak?
  • Does it start as soon as I place the tip to the paper?
  • Is the pen body and section slippery to hold?
  • Does the cap go on and off easily and have good retention while on the pen

When none of the above are issues then it gets even more subjective and I may have more leniency in these areas:

  • Do I just like the looks?
  • Is it a brand I have never tried before?
  • Is the maker somebody I like and respect or just starting out and could use the support?
  • Is it a limited edition that I am FOMO’ing over?
  • Is this a new model for the maker/brand and I just want everything they make?
  • For fountain pens how easy is it to clean?

Size comes in to play for me when I’m shopping for an enjoyment pen. I think I have average size hands for a 6’ male. I have some minor arthritis so a large pen is more comfortable for me. Both in length and diameter.

You may notice an absence of any consideration given to a clip.  I don’t clip a pen to anything so unless the clip is just hideously ugly it rarely carries any weight for my choices.

Some of these questions are ignored when I’m buying a machined pen or similar that will take standardized refills because I know the writing portion can be fixed with a Parker, G2 or D1 type refill. Additionally a fountain pen that I really fall in love with may get a pass in the ink to paper area since that can be fixed with nib tuning if all the other characteristics of the pen grab my attention. Though I have lamented before I strongly dislike buying a brand new pen that has to be sent off for nib work.

The above lists have worked well for me and I don’t seeing it changing any time in the future. The pen is a pretty simple concept. A stick with an ink reservoir.

Anything else you consider when shopping for your next pen? Maybe I’m missing something.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Sheaffer 300 Fountain Pen Review

I had lunch with my sister the other day and she offered some great suggestions and input on my blogging adventure. She renewed a spark in me so I’m making a leap forward, for me anyway. Below is my first writing instrument review.  Not nearly as scientific as some but hopefully you will glean some helpful knowledge after your time with me.

The Pen:

Sheaffer 300 Overall

  • Sheaffer 300 Fountain Pen     
  • Stainless Steel Medium Nib
  • Iridescent Red – some would call it marbleized
  • Street Price: $75.00
  •  5.5” capped
  • 4.75” uncapped
  • 6.1” Posted

Sheaffer 300 Showoff

Packaging

Packaging is well done in a hard case with sharp crisp corners and the common white taffeta type material on the inside and a pen hold down loop. The case snaps shut with authority, stays open and came with the outer cardboard sleeve.  I don’t get too hung up on packaging but this one exudes a high standard.

Overall Appearance

First impressions and display eye candy factor is a key for beginning my purchase decisions when I’m in a brick and mortar type environment.  Surrounded by lots and lot of writing instruments something really has to pop off the shelf to catch my interest. I found this pen very attractive in the dealers display case. The traditional shape and design, the bright chrome cap and the red marbled finish was a pen-speak request for a second look and a fondling. Here it stands proudly next to other common competitors. The Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari and a TWSBI 540.

Sheaffer 300 Four Pens

Ergonomics

The 300 is a heavy pen. I like that. It doesn’t feel unbalanced when writing unposted. I’m not a poster but I suspect Sheaffer has done a good job in both regards. The metal construction and weight give the pen a substantial feel of quality and from my  experience thus far it has not disappointed. The shape is traditional slight cigar curvatures with tapers at the top and bottom. The cap fits flush to the body and the finger hold area is smooth black plastic, just right for me. The finish is glossy without being slippery or looking cheap.

Cap

The cap is smooth, heavy and shiny chrome, a substantial complement to the pen. Sheaffer did not cut any corners here.  The cap stays on the head of the pen by snap fit  as opposed to threads. There are many debates on which is best and frankly I like both when both are executed well.  I find enjoyment in taking my time to unscrew the cap of the pen I have chosen for my next writing task. It gives me a moment to gather my thoughts.  However, sometimes a quick deployment is favorable for a signature or some other small ink on paper task. For that you can’t beat a snap on cap. Sheaffer did well here. The 300’s cap has a definitive snap both audible and tactical in feel. You know it’s on.  The cap does spin when snapped on but there is no slop or play, once again speaking to the great engineering that went into this pen. I compare this snap action to the Visconti Rembrandt though the Visconti has the added advantage of magnets.

Clip

I like the clip. It’s a thick and robust addition that’s fully articulated with a pivot point in the top of the count. This allows a little more confidence and safety valve when clipping it to a thicker journal or even a pants pocket. When I compare it to other articulated clips I have owned typically they have some sideways slop in the pivot point making the clip feel loose. The Sheaffer exhibits none of that which is impressive for this price point. What’s a Sheaffer with the signature white dot, yes it’s there where it’s supposed to be.

Sheaffer 330 Spring Clip

Converter

Nothing special here but as with everything else on this pen it is executed well. Ink capacity is not huge but it fills well and has a nice chrome ring around the bottom of the converter where it goes into the pen. I’m not sure of its purpose but I’m sure it gives some strength to the plastic around the pen attachment area and it gives a more substantial look. I like how the converter fits snugly on the feed nipple but I can still remove the converter easily for cleaning. The snug fit builds my confidence even though I don’t like removing them a lot in fear of compromising the seal.

Sheaffer 300 Disassembled

Nib

I was so pleased to learn this was a perfect writer right out of the box. The stainless steel nib did not disappoint at all. I was able to flex it some but it took more pressure than I could comfortably write with. It did respond with a thicker and wetter line but I would not in any way call this a flexer.

Sheaffer 300 Nib 1

I describe it as a wet writer on the finer side of a medium. The nib has some nice scrolled engraving on it, the word SHEAFFER and an M designating the medium nib size. Well done. A loupe revealed good alignment of the tines and a feed centered very well. I almost didn’t check those attributes because it wrote so well out of the box I sometimes assume those are all ok.

Sheaffer 300 Nib 2

Writing

With the accolades above you will find no surprise that this is a fine writer. It fits my larger than average hands very well. My fingers rest on smooth plastic with no hard edges to irritate. The pen is not overly picky on contact angles to the paper so I found no skipping, hard starts or dry ups. This one has stayed in my daily rotation for nearly a month now and I grab it often.  I’ve tried it with the Diamine, J Herbin, Noodlers, Caran D’Ache and Sheaffer inks and found no real differences in writing performance.

writing sample

Conclusion

I like this pen. I can’t say I actively went out and shopped for this pen but when I saw it on a vacation trip it peaked my interest and I liked the look. I’m glad I added it to my collection.

Any Sheaffer’s you like?

Remember: Write something nice……Sheaffer 300 in Action